Every time Eileen and Mireya Rodriguez-Del Rio are back in the news, things get chaotic.
It happened last week when the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing's discrimination case against Tastries Bakery had a court hearing, the first in a series of legal clashes over the bakery’s decision not to make the Rodiguez-Del Rios wedding cake.
Facebook posts. Stares. Questions at work.
Why not just go somewhere else for a cake? Are they just trying to cash in with the lawsuit? Is this just a plan to close down a good Christian business?
When the news broke last week, and the media wrote about the legal setback, they opted not to respond immediately to requests for comment.
They try to stay off social media. They watch their back in the mall. And they support each other.
“We’re not sure if anyone is going to lash out at us,” Eileen said.
Fair Employment and Housing lawyers asked Kern County Superior Court Judge David Lampe last week to issue a temporary restraining order that would require Tastries owner Cathy Miller to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples, or not make wedding cakes at all.
Lampe ruled against the request, and denied the restraining order.
But the issue is scheduled to return to court on Feb. 2 for a hearing on a preliminary injunction – a more robust discussion of whether the bakery should be required to make cakes for couples like Mrs. and Mrs. Rodriguez-Del Rio while the full trial proceeds through court.
Under the California Unruh Civil Rights Act law a business that offers service to the public cannot deny service to a customer based on factors such as race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.
But Miller claimed, back when the issue exploded into the news in August, that she was following the tenants of her faith and conscience by refusing to participate in a ceremony she believes is morally wrong.
Miller is being defended by the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, which issued a statement last week calling the lawsuit an assault on Christians and their beliefs.
The Rodriguez-Del Rio family is not sorry, they said, that they vented on Facebook in August that they’d been denied a cake by Tastries for their Oct. 7 wedding celebration.
It was that post that triggered the heated debate and led eventually to the two women filing a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and housing.
But they say they’re paying a price for having their names and pictures out there.
Eileen Rodriguez-Del Rio said she has been stared at in the mall and the post office, an unsettling experience.
Those looks, and Kern County’s conservative bent, make them worry about their safety.
And comments on social media, Eileen said, “They’re just very ugly.”
She’s rarely on Facebook any more.
People are calling their motives into question, assuming they’re doing this for money or to piggy-back on the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision in a similar case out of Colorado.
Eileen said she didn’t even know about the Colorado case when she posted her frustration and was hurt about the Tastries situation on Facebook.
The two women’s attorney, Patricia Ziegler-Lopez, said there are financial penalties if the Department of Fair Employment and Housing wins its case.
But Eileen and Mireya say that’s not why they’re going through with the complaint.
“We’re doing it because we were discriminated against and it’s not right and it’s not fair,” Eileen said. “It’s not about the money. It’s wasn’t about the cake. It was that our rights were violated."
So, when their case goes back to court in early February, they’ll deal with the negative Facebook posts, the stares in the mall and the worry that someone might be mad enough to strike out against them.
One of the biggest criticisms of the Rodriguez-Del Rios dispute was that they were already married when they walked into Tastries to talk about a cake.
“Last August, two LGBT activists entered Tastries purportedly wanting a wedding cake, even though they had gotten married the previous December,” reads the press release from Miller’s law firm.
The two women had indeed married in a ceremony several months earlier.
“All we had was a commitment ceremony with our moms and our families,” Eileen said. “We planned a celebratory wedding. Every bride should have their dream wedding.”